History of the Distinguished Surname
This is not an official historical account.
Just something found along the way.
Few areas in Britain have
produced as many notable families in world history such as the
names Armstrong, Nixon, Graham, Bell, Carson, Hume, Irving, Lock,
Rutherford, as the Border region of England and Scotland. The
family name Dyke is included in this group.
Researchers have confirmed
the first documented history of this name in lowland Scotland and
northern England, tracing it through many ancient manuscripts,
including private collections of historical and genealogical
records, the Inquisitio, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, the
Ragman Rolls, The Hearth Rolls, the Domesday Book, parish
cartularies, baptismals, and tax rolls. The first record of the
name Dyke was found in Cumberland where they were seated from
very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and
the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.
Different spellings of the
name were found in the archives researched, typically linking
each alternate to the root source of the surname. The surname
Dyke, occurred in many references, from time to time the surname
was spelt Dykes, Dike, Dikes, and these changes in spelling
frequently occurred, even between father and son. Scribes and
church officials recorded the name from its sound.
The family name Dyke is
believed to be descended originally from the Strathclyde Britons.
This ancient founding race of the north were a mixture of
Gaelic/Celts whose original territories ranged from Lancashire in
the south, northward to the south bank of the River Clyde in
Tracing its ancient
development, the name Dyke was found in Cumberland where they
were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor
and estates in that shire. The surname originated in Cumberland
near the border of Lancashire. The name originated at the shire
of Dykesfield prior to the Norman Invasions. The earliest records
indicate Robert Dyke granted lands to William del Monkys at the
time of Henry III (1207 - 1272). Another Robert Dyke held estates
during the reign of Edward I of England, about the year 1301. The
family made intrusions into Yorkshire and by 1379, Adam Dyke had
acquired an estate. William Dyke represented the Count of
Cumberland in parliament during the reign of Henry VI (1421 -
1471). He married Elizabeth Lee, a descendant of the sister of
William the Conqueror. Thomas Dyke furnished horses in the border
service during the time of Henry VII (1457 - 1509). The Dyke
family continued to flourish during these times in the original
home of the name. Leonard Dykes, Esquire, who was Sheriff for the
county of Cumberland served as treasurer for the troops of King
Charles (1600 - 1649). Thomas Dyke supposedly originated the
family motto. During the reign of King Charles II (1630 - 1685),
he uttered "Prius frangitur quam flectitur" after being
discovered by parliamentarians, and not recanting his devotion to
the King. Meanwhile in Cumberland and Yorkshire the prestige of
the family grew. Lawson Dyke, Esquire, married Jane Ballantine in
1765 and assumed the arms of that family in consequence. The
family name continues to be a common one in these two counties.
Notable amongst the family at this time was Leonard Dykes,
Sheriff of Cumberland.
By the year 1000 A.D.,
border life was in turmoul. In 1246, 6 Chiefs from the Scottish
side and 6 from the English side met at Carlisle and produced a
set of laws governing all the border Clans. These were unlike any
laws prevailing in England or Scotland or, for that matter,
anywhere else in the world. For example, it was a far greater
offence to refuse to help a neighbour recover his property, wife,
sheep, cattle or horses than it was to steal them in the first
place. Hence the expression "Hot Trod", or, a hot
pursuit, from which we get the modern "Hot to trot".
For refusal of assistance during a "Hot Trod", a person
could be hanged on the instant, without trial. Frequently, the
descendants of these clans or families apologetically refer to
themselves as being descended from "Cattle or horse
thieves" when, in fact, it was an accepted code of life on
In 1603, the unified
English and Scottish crowns under James 1st dispersed these
"unruly border clans", clans which had served loyally
in the defence of each side. The unification of the governments
was threatened and it was imperative that the old "border
code" should be broken up. Hence, the Border Clans were
banished to England, northern Scotland and to Ireland. Some were
outlawed directly to Ireland, the Colonies and the New World.
Many Border Clans settled
in Northern Ireland, transferred between 1650 and 1700 with
grants of land provided they "undertook" to remain
Protestant. Hence they became known as the
"Undertakers". Many became proudly Irish. There is no
evidence that the family name migrated to Ireland, but this does
not preclude the possibility of their scattered migration to that
But life in Ireland was
little more rewarding and they sought a more challenging life.
They looked to the New World and sailed aboard the "White
Sails" an armada of sailing ships such as the Hector, the
Rambler, and the Dove which struggled across the stormy Atlantic.
Some ships lost 30 or 40% of their passenger list, migrants who
were buried at sea having died from dysentery, cholera, small
pox, and typhoid.
In North America, some of
the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the
family name Dyke and their spelling variants were Branches of the
family settled at Plymouth, Newton, and Bridgewater,
Massachusetts, from about the year 1640 on wards. The migrants
formed wagon trains westward, rolling west to the prairies, or
the west coast. During the American War of Independence those
that remained loyal to the Crown moved north into Canada and
became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
There were many notable
contemporaries of this name Dyke, Charles Edwin Dykes, Financial
Executive; and Sir Derek William Hart Dyke, of Hamilton Ontario.
The most ancient grant of
a Coat of Arms found was:
On a gold background three black five leafed flowers.
The Crest was:
An arm holding in the hand a five leafed flower.